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Weaver Wednesday [169] - Discovery [52]: Red-vented Malimbe

2015-09-09 (666)

gravit8 Weaver Wednesday (species text)

Red-vented Malimbe Malimbus scutatus

Red-vented Malimbe
Red-vented Malimbe,
figure from Cassin 1850
Red-vented Malimbe
Red-vented Malimbe,
figure from Buttikofer 1890
Red-vented Malimbe map
Red-vented Malimbe
distribution, type locality circled


The Red-vented Malimbe was formally described by John Cassin, an American ornithologist and curator of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia (ANSP), now Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University. Cassin incorrectly typed Scobius scutatus for the type description, even though he listed the genus header Sycobius correctly and in all future publications he also listed Sycobius scutatus correctly.

The Red-vented Malimbe was collected by Dr Robert MacDowell, a surgeon attached to the colonial government of Sierra Leone. The type locality is given as Western Africa but has been inferred to be Sierra Leonne, where MacDowell was based. MacDowell collected several types of bird species, with type localities listed as either West Africa, or as "St. Paul's River, western Africa", eg the White-crested Hornbill was collected at St. Paul's River. Bates (1937) suggested that the Red-vented Malimbe was also collected at St. Paul's River, which is in Liberia. This suggestion by Bates has been overlooked by other authors.

MacDowell's specimens were obtained by ANSP. Cassin published more on the birds of Africa than on birds from other continents, because of the large collections received from West Africa and other parts of Africa, especially from Du Chaillu and MacDowell (or McDowell) (Stone 1899).

The first illustration of a Red-vented Malimbe is a colour painting published by Cassin 1850. The second illustration was published by George Shelley when he described what he thought was a new malimbe (Malimbus rubropersonatus, but later he realised that it was an immature Red-vented Malimbe - the illustration appears under the Biology section. The third illustration for the species was the first time that the well woven nest was illustrated (Buttikofer 1890).

Scientific citation

S[y]cobius scutatus Cassin 1849 Prov. Acad. Nat. Sci. Philadelphia, 4, p.157, Western Africa (inferred to be Sierra Leonne).

Meaning of names

scutatus - Latin: scutatus, armed with a shield (scutum, a shield) - this refers to the red breast of the bird.

First English name

The shield Malimbus (Reichenbach 1863) - see Latin name above.

Alternate names

Cameroon Red-rumped Malimbe, Red-rumped Malimbe, Red-vented Weaver, The shield Malimbus.


Dr Robert MacDowell.

Date collected

Before 1849, but date unknown.

Locality collected

Western Africa, probably near St. Paul's River in Liberia.

Type specimens

MacDowell collected 2 pairs: ANSP 14104 (holotype), ANSP 14106, ANSP 14105, ANSP 14107 and these are housed in the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University.